1 Corinthians 15-16

Chapter 15

The Good: yeah, right…

The Bad: V 3-4: Which scriptures is Paul citing here? There is no footnote in my online bible (which always includes the cross-references if there are any), and a google search turns up nothing specific, just a bunch of apologists trying to make various OT passages fit. V 5-9: This list of post-resurrection appearances makes no sense and doesn’t match those listed in any of the gospels (not that the gospels agree with each other either). So forget the discrepancies for now and just look at why the list makes no sense.

Jesus was seen by

  • 1) Peter
  • 2) the Twelve
  • 3) More than 500 of his followers at one time
  • 4) James and all the other Apostles, and
  • 5) Paul.

OK, so why is Peter listed separately from the Twelve and the Apostles? Aren’t the Twelve and the Apostles the same group of guys? Apparently not necessarily, say some scholars. There were other cults in the area at the time whose leaders surrounded themselves by groups of 12 close followers. And anyway, there weren’t 12 disciples at Jesus’ resurrection, because Judas was missing and Matthias had not yet replaced him. So who knows who/what Paul is talking about? And he doesn’t name any disciples/apostles other than Peter and James, so that doesn’t help.

Were there really already 500 believers at Jesus’ resurrection? Acts chapter 1 mentions only 120 believers at a meeting held later (after his ascension). And what of Paul’s mention that he saw Jesus himself? Seriously? Like he suddenly remembered that meeting and threw it in here like ‘oh, by the way, I just remembered…’. Come on, if he had really seen Jesus in the flesh, he would have had a lot more to say about it than this. I think he is just referring to his vision on the road to Damascus.

V 12-22 constitute the subject and basis of every Easter sermon I ever heard – which is probably about 25, if I don’t count early childhood. Now I know where the familiar lines come from. Reflecting, it’s no wonder apologists are so anxious to prove the resurrection; if it’s not true, then the whole house of cards collapses. V 29 – is this why Mormons try to baptize dead people? Ewww.

In v 35-41 we are again back to incredibly bad science – definite evidence that this book was written by a fallible human. There’s bad botany (similar to that espoused by Jesus in John 12:24), and then bad astronomy, and then some more woo about spiritual bodies vs natural bodies. And then there’s v 45-49, which refer to Christ as a ‘heavenly man’, or ‘life-giving spirit’, or similar, depending on version and translation. These verses support Paul’s (and to some extent, John’s) vision of Jesus as more of a spiritual or mythical figure rather than as a human being, the way the first three gospels portray him. Pay attention to this difference as we continue reading. Paul seems literally unaware of Jesus’ earthly life (assuming there was one). And he concludes by reiterating the promise that end times will arrive in the lifetimes of the believers (v 51-52).

The Ugly: V 33 – another one used to justify shunning.

Quotes: V 20-22 and v 51-57 were used by Handel in his Messiah (links below). But v 20 was sneakily added to Job 19:25-26 in the lyrics, to make it sound like they go together. (If you’ve been reading all along, you won’t be surprised at this.) The hands-down winner for favorite quotes is v 55-57, but most familiar to me are v 20-22.


Some background on Handel’s Messiah

We’re getting close to the end of the biblical texts used in Handel’s Messiah that I’ve been featuring all through this bible study. I have used the Messiah as an example because it’s a musical work that has reached millions of people over hundreds of years (it dates back to 1741) and influenced their belief that prophesy in the bible points to Jesus. But it recently occurred to me that I might owe Mr. Handel a belated apology – he only wrote the music. So I looked it up. Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the Messiah, much of it about the musical structure and composition, but here’s what I learned about the libretto (words):

Handel’s Messiah has been described by the early-music scholar Richard Luckett as “a commentary on [Jesus Christ’s] Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension”, beginning with God’s promises as spoken by the prophets and ending with Christ’s glorification in heaven. The text, by Charles Jennens, is an extended reflection on Jesus Christ as Messiah. Jennens’s intention was not to dramatize the life and teachings of Jesus, but to acclaim the “Mystery of Godliness”, using a compilation of extracts from the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible, and from the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.

The three-part structure of the work approximates to that of Handel’s three-act operas. In Part I, the Messiah’s coming and the virgin birth are predicted by the Old Testament prophets. The annunciation to the shepherds of the birth of the Christ is represented in the words of Luke’s gospel. Part II covers Christ’s passion and his death, his resurrection and ascension, the first spreading of the gospel through the world, and a definitive statement of God’s glory summarized in the “Hallelujah”. Part III begins with the promise of redemption, followed by a prediction of the Day of Judgment and the “general resurrection”, ending with the final victory over sin and death and the acclamation of Christ.

As a devout Anglican and believer in scriptural authority, part of Jennens’s intention was to challenge advocates of Deism, who rejected the doctrine of divine intervention in human affairs. According to the musicologist Donald Burrows, much of the text is so allusive as to be largely incomprehensible to those ignorant of the biblical accounts. For the benefit of his audiences Jennens printed and issued a pamphlet explaining the reasons for his choices of scriptural selections. (emphasis mine – bahaha!)

Chapter 16

1 corinth 16The Good: V 13 (except the part about faith). Hey, at least I salvaged something from this chapter. And even that’s a stretch; I just realized that what the modern translations interpret as ‘be courageous’, is, in the KJV, ‘act like men’. Ha!

The Bad: Here comes the request for money (v 1-4); was it ever thus… Note that Paul doesn’t specify what it’s for. It’s for a worthy cause (the church, of course) – who needs to know more than that? Take a look at the end of v 22. In the KJV, anathema maranatha. Hmmm. I looked that up. It seems that the KJV translators didn’t really understand the meaning of maranatha, so they assumed it was part of the previous sentence. But that’s incorrect. Maranatha means either ‘Lord, come!’ Or ‘the Lord has come’, depending on how it is interpreted (it should be 2 words, either maran atha or marana tha, which give the different meanings according to the rules of Aramaic grammar). So that’s a separate sentence. Modern translations correct this.

The Ugly: V 22. Anyone who doesn’t love Jesus is cursed. Anathema means, in modern English, something cursed or vehemently disliked. But in Christianese, it refers to a formal curse by a pope or a council of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine.

Quotes: v 13 – what else is there?

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